Cooking for the stars: chef Vincenzo Pezzella talks working at Naples’ top restaurant

In the city of Naples, Italy, on the pebble beach of Seiano in Vico Equense underneath the Torre del Saraceno, sits the world renown Torre del Saracino restaurant. Guests from around the globe head there for exquisite Italian and Mediterranean cuisine prepared by the famous chef Gennaro Esposito. It has not just one, but a two Michelin star rating, and seats politicians, athletes, and celebrities regularly. It also happens to be where chef Vincenzo Pezzella started his career.

Pezzella now is known internationally for his skills as a chef, moving to Paris after working under Esposito at Torre del Saracino and becoming the head chef at the popular Mamma Prima Ristorante in Paris. He moved quickly up the kitchen ranks, and the success of the restaurant can be attributed to his creativity in the kitchen. He remains humble, however, and attributes his success to what he learned working as a line cook at Torre del Saracino.

“It was really hard, but also amazing working at Torre del Saracino. Any time you work for a two star Michelin restaurant, perfection is the only thing you learn how to do. I wanted to run away as much as I was proud to be a part of it. The experience was unlike anything I will ever encounter in my career,” said Pezzella. “The kitchen was masterful. It was definitely well worth the time spent there.”

Few are fortunate enough to learn from legends, but Pezzella is one of them. Working under Esposito, he quickly picked up what was important in terms of running a kitchen, and learning what it meant to make authentic Italian cuisine while staying true to what you know. Being from Naples himself, working in such a high profile restaurant right in his backyard was everything while he was learning.

“It was incredible working under chef Gennaro Esposito. I learned everything that is my base through that man. I learned not only what it is to be in a kitchen but how to respect it and everyone around it. I learned that you could be from Naples and still manage a kitchen in that style and that demeanor,” said Pezzella. “I still call him from time to time to see how he is doing and hopefully to catch a lesson from him.”

The relationship is one that Esposito also admires, and remembers the days that Pezzella worked for him fondly.

“He was a listener. Vincenzo understood what he was being taught and followed through. He will have a great career,” said Esposito.

Working in a Michelan star restaurant, Pezzella also learned what perfection in cooking truly was. Sometimes, dishes needed to be made and remade again and again until they were exactly what Esposito envisioned. The environment can be stressful for a newcomer, but the ideal place to grow as a chef.

“Being perfect is never easy. We overcame it by taking our time and making sure everything fit the necessary criteria, and then we moved on,” said Pezzella. “Despite what some may think, I learned perfection working here that perfection in a kitchen does exist. It’s not an easy thing to obtain, but it is possible none the less.”

This attitude is what led Pezzella and the rest of the kitchen crew to such grand success. Constantly receiving positive feedback, locals and vacationers alike would go to the restaurant just to say they did.

“The restaurant pushed limits on Neapolitan cuisine because it could and the result is priceless,” said Pezzella.

Now that he has relocated to France and runs his own kitchen, Pezzella looks back at his time at Torre del Saracino as an invaluable learning experience. He liked everything about it, even the stressful and intimidating parts of the job. But what truly made the experience was cooking in the city he loves, the city he grew up in.

“To work where I grew up is the way it should always be. To get up and be around your people, knowing that your product is top notch is definitely a gift. Being able to do something as easy as walk to work and trace the steps you have done since your birth is an awesome way to live and build your career,” he concluded.

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